Youth as third force

Gen Y

Ideally, a youth political party should not make itself subservient to any of the coalitions and remain as the third force, the alternative that represents our bright future. 

Scott Ng, Free Malaysia Today

For quite some time now, Malaysia’s Gen Y has been looking for ways to influence the political direction of our country. The spearhead of this generation has already begun to make its presence known in young leaders like Rajiv Rishyakaran and Yeo Bee Yin, but by and large, Gen Y’s voice is under-represented in the corridors of power in Malaysia.

That could all change with former Universiti Malaya student body president Fahmi Zainol’s new student group, Anak Muda Harapan Malaysia, which announced its existence with an ambitious open letter directed at Prime Minister Najib Razak.

The letter itself is brazen and reflective of the generally more liberal attitude ascribed to Gen Y. It proclaims that, among other things, that all Malaysians are equal regardless of race or creed. It calls for the abolition of pro-Bumiputera policies and the establishment of a single stream schooling system that has a trilingual policy. Any number of items in the letter would cause an apoplexy on both sides of the political divide, and that’s understandable as some of these topics are discussed only in whispers and never put down in writing for fear of retaliation from parties safeguarding their own interests.

It is beautiful and revolutionary, a daring mission statement that gives us a glimpse of what Malaysia would be like if it was set on a different path.

Of course, change so drastic as advocated by the group of Fahmi, Ganeshwaran Kana, Atyrah Hanim Razali, Lee Jin Yang, Zawani Syafiqah Zainal Bahrin and Adam Fistival Wilfrid will not happen overnight. To believe so is to put one’s faith in the impossible. But Fahmi’s group represents what is the beginning of what could be a third force in Malaysian politics. After all, as many political parties as there are now in Malaysia, elections boil down to a binary between Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat, and those who do not feel comfortable supporting either coalition can choose largely unsuccessful independent candidates.

That’s not a knock on the independents, who seek election with the best of intentions, but without a coalition’s machinery behind them, they are almost destined to lose despite the ideas and policies they bring to the table. A party representing the youth is a much different proposition. After all, the Department of Statistics tabulated in 2010 that people aged 15 to 34 made up 38.2% of the population, more than 10 million people. It is the single largest demographic in Malaysia, and is a largely untapped political force.